Wedensdays at St Cosme
Driving towards Gigondas at midday on a Wedensday in September, the reek of grape juice is overpowering. A black line runs down the middle of the road like a secret way marking. Tinny trucks crouch like toys in the vineyards, their trailers bulging with the deep purple cargo. Heads bob up and down between the rows as the last of the pickers deliver their fruit. Some of the workers are already lying on the roadside, hats tipped over brows, baguettes torn open at their sides, exhausted. At the Co-op, the trucks form patient queues waiting to disgorge their morning load, whilst on the other side of the building pipes are filling customers’ vats and bidons with wine. What goes in must come out. And all of this bathed in autumnal light.
I am on my way to Chateau St Cosme where I am teaching cello to both father and daughter. When I arrive, I ask Louis how his crop survived the recent downpours. He says that the grapes were too hard with the drought and that the rain has softened them perfectly.
He sits down with his cello and lays his hands on the ribs of the instrument. He plays me some Bach. Deeply felt and full of fantasy. We start with some breathing exercises and I see the toil start to leave his body and gradually his sound begins to open up a little. Grapes seem to be embedded in his very skin and lodged under his nails.
Louis' daughter is five. When it comes to her lesson, we find phrases and tap their rhythms out with the bow. We explore fairy harmonics as we draw our fingers up and down the string. We try to find elephants and mice in the sounds we make. We giggle. When I am given a tour of the cellars, however, Alix becomes serious and professional about being papa's assistant. She clearly knows her stuff and may well be the one on whom the wine making mantel falls.
It is awe inspiring, and touching, to be with a man and his daughter whose family has been making wine since 1570, a century before Bach was born, and to whom, for some reason, the cello means so much.
I am paid, and compensated heavily for my ‘kilometrage’ with too many bottles of Côtes du Rhone.
‘I like to do things properly’ says Louis. ‘You have travelled so many kilometres and that equals a certain sum of money. Some weeks you may have four bottles of Little James, others you may have one bottle of Côte Rotie, but do not worry, it will equal the correct sum.’
We part and agree to meet at the same time next week. I drive the exquisite drive back through the vineyards of Gigondas, deliriously happy with my new Wedensday gig. Later, sipping the wine I have been gifted, I pray that I may bring something equal to the pleasure of this taste into their lives through our musical explorations.